Want your kids to tell you about their day? Try telling them about yours
Ask a kid what their favorite game is and you’re in for a half hour lecture about the finer points of Minecraft. Ask them what they like to eat and they’re likely to tell you what kids’ menu has the best mac and cheese in town. But ask them, “How was school?” when you greet them in the afternoon, and most kids claim up like a defendant on an episode of CSI. They’re not going to tell you anything, not even if you have cookies.
Mom Sara Ackerman was running into this issue with her tight-lipped daughter after school. When Ackerman asked her how school was, her daughter wouldn’t answer. Various internet tips of giving her daughter space to unwind after school or asking open questions didn’t do the trick. But that didn’t stop her from finding a solution. In a piece for The Washington Post’s On Parenting, Ackerman shares the method she came up with for getting her daughter to open up about her day at school. The secret? Don’t ask your kid how their day was. Talk about your own day instead.
Rather than trying to pry details of her daughter’s day out of her, she tells her about her own day as a teacher. She shares everything, even the mundane details, like how the printer jammed and how many kids asked to go to the nurse. While just thinking about listing aloud to the boring parts of your day might make you yawn, she swears it’s effective at getting her daughter to open up about her own day.
“I think my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do when I’m not with her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver or a stay-at-home parent, because it’s not about the minutiae of the work,” she writes. “It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet. When I model this for my daughter, she is more willing to share the same with me.”
As parenting hacks go, this one is pretty genius. After all, no one likes feeling as though they’re the subject of an investigation, and when we’re asking our kids, “How was school? Who did you play with? What did you do at recess?” it’s easy to see why our children might do their best clam impression and not want to chat. But by turning the after-school discussion into a dialogue that includes talking about your own day, suddenly it’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Plus we should want kids to know what we do when they’re not around, if only for them to understand that we parents do other things with our time than just take care of them.
So the next time your kid freezes up at the “How was school?” question, don’t get mad. Just take the mic.